Do you spend days and weeks gardening and when harvest time comes, your days are filled with picking, canning, blanching, and freezing? The good news is, there’s a better way! By planning and working with nature, you can have a garden that produces enough vegetables and fruits over a longer period of the year with a minimum of preserving. Depending on where you live, here are eight tips to get you started.

  1. Plant perennial fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These plants tend to come up before seeds are ready to go into the ground and are ready to harvest when other plants are seedlings. Strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, asparagus, and chives are common.

  2. Use mulched, raised beds. In early spring you can move organic mulch from last year’s garden to reveal soil that is ready to plant without tilling. Early vegetables such as peas, spinach, and lettuce can be planted as soon as one or two inches of soil can be worked.

  3. Plant varieties of the same vegetables. You can plant early, mid, and late season varieties to spread the harvest over several weeks. This is especially helpful with crops that tend to ripen all at once.

  4. Plant more cool weather and root vegetables. Cool weather vegetables such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and some greens improve in flavor after a few frosts and can be left in the garden. Root vegetables can be covered with at least 12 inches of mulch so the ground doesn’t freeze and can be used during winter. Turnips, for example, can be left in the ground for use all winter and as early greens in the spring. You can also plant seeds of some cool weather cultivated varieties in the fall so they will sprout in early spring.

  5. Plant field varieties of corn, beans, and peas. Field varieties are the kind that dry on the stalk. Field corn can stay on the cob until you are ready to grind it. Bean stalks and pea vines can be pulled from the garden and hung upside down until you can shell them.

  6. Select varieties that store well. Apples, nuts, cabbages, potatoes, and winter squash, to name a few, can be kept for months if stored properly. Pumpkins and sweet potatoes can be kept in basements if the temperature is 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7–4.4° C) and humidity is about 50 percent. In the United States, you can contact your local county extension agent for more information. Also, remember to store only unblemished produce, and check weekly for signs of spoilage.

  7. Plant year-round if you live in a warm climate. Heat-loving plants such as okra, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes can be grown when it’s too hot for other plants.

  8. Protect plants from the cold. Use cold frames and hot beds to prolong a growing season. Cold frames use solar heat, and hot beds use the heat from composting matter. These gardening devices create miniature greenhouses that help prolong the growing season. Also, be sure to cover plants during first frosts.

Not only can we enjoy garden produce over a much longer period, potentially all year, but we can more fully appreciate how the Lord provides for us when we do our part. We can learn how to use “every herb … and every fruit … with prudence and thanksgiving” (D&C 89:11).—Holly Furgason, Memorial Park Ward, Houston Texas East Stake

Illustrated by Joe Flores